Toonami’s Back… But Will it Last? by Jerry Whitworth
Toonami (a programming block featuring action series, often anime) made a return to airwaves April 1st on Cartoon Network as an April Fool’s Day prank but it generated a lot of buzz as people were excited to see it back. This generated so much attention, in fact, that the channel decided to try bringing the concept back and it premiered May 26th. New anime shows Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins led past shows CN already televised in Bleach, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Cowboy Bebop with the end result being a 14% rise in viewership since last year at the timeslot, with the new shows having good showings as Casshern was the #1 watched show at that time by men age 18 to 34. However, Jason DeMarco, co-creator of Toonami and vice president of strategic marketing and promotions for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, has commented while doing well, it has to do significantly better to warrant what was invested to bring Toonami back with new shows. How do fans feel? Reaction has been mixed. Many are excited at just the prospect of the return of Toonami, but as much of this excitement derives from nostalgia, some have described a preference for the popular programming of yesteryear, dropping new content mostly altogether. And yet, as the first week has demonstrated, the two new shows are what people generally tuned in for. Where does Toonami go from here?
Well, as voice actor Steve Blum (who voices Toonami’s host T.O.M. and was the biggest advocate for Toonami’s return for fans) has said repeatedly, it’s in the hands of fans. Since Toonami returned due in large part to fans petitioning on-line for it, the sense Blum has described is that fans are in the driver’s seat. He’s said Toonami is in its infancy and is looking for what the fans want out of it, be it televise old or new content, and of this what shows they want to see. Ultimately, viewership will decide what to keep and drop from this approach. However, I have to question where this will ultimately go. I believe a lot of the success Toonami had was that it was an afternoon programming block to appeal to pre-teen/teenage boys. Something you would watch when you got home from school. Yet, its return is placed late night on Saturdays, a place where it languished around the time it went off the air previously. Further, what does Toonami offer that’s any different from Cartoon Network’s practice of showing slightly graphic (very graphic by American non-premium channel standards) anime late night on Saturday as they have for years? Virtually nothing, as the animation for the bumpers for Toonami are mostly recycled from years ago and mostly showing anime that’s already had extensive runs on the network, save for adding two new shows. As a fan, it seems to be doing the bare minimum in hopes of getting a huge response. I believe others feel this way which explains why there’s some positive attention made but not to any really large extreme.
Cartoon Network has a number of decisions to make: Should they continue doing, from what I can see, is the bare minimum in trying to resurrect Toonami and hope for the best or really try to reclaim the old magic of Toonami? Should Toonami stay late at night on Saturday or move to weekday afternoons? Should they try to pick the best content Toonami had years ago and air it or push brand new shows many viewers likely have never seen (or continue to blend both)? Should they show programming too extreme for American audiences and censor it or aim at finding shows they could make it past network censors? One thing’s for sure, there is certainly a growing period in order and the end result is not going to make everyone happy. But, it is my hope ultimately Toonami finds its legs again in either catering to old fans, bringing in new fans, or find some happy medium that can appeal to both. However, I would say at this point it’s an uphill battle. Again, if you have thoughts on the subject, tweet Adult Swim (@adultswim), who seems to be behind Toonami’s resurrection, and let them know how you feel. From what fans are being told, it makes a difference.